Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  October 1, 2015 10:00am-12:01pm EDT

10:00 am
i urge my fellow senators to consider what is included in this legislation: family housing, schools, medical facilities for active-duty personnel and their families, and funding for the care of 6.9 million veterans. as a doctor, i am glad that we also specifically provide for ground-breaking hepatitis-c treatments and for modernizing the medical records system. the military veterans affairs appropriations bill based b wasd by a bipartisan vote of 21-9 with all republicans and five democrats voting in favor. this is common sense. congress has the duty to pass this legislation. now the president has an obstacles tobligation to sign. we must honor a commitment to our military and to our veterans. thank you, mr. president.
10:01 am
the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise today to urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support the military construction and veterans affairs appropriations bill. mr. president, yesterday congress sent to the president a continuing resolution, a bill, to prevent a government shutdown. this was necessary to ensure that vital resources and services that the american people depend on do not lapse and in order to avoid harm to jobs and our economy. but, as my colleagues fully realize, sumly putting government on autopilot through a continuing resolution is not
10:02 am
the responsible way to fund government. it locks in last year's priorities, delays the start of vital, new programs, and allows unneeded programs to continue to be funded. we must pass the 12 annual appropriations bills. in july of this year, the senate appropriations committee, on which i'm privileged to serve, reported the last of the 12 bills. this was the first time that all 12 of the appropriations bills have been approved by the committee in plenty of time for the senate to act since 2009. mr. president, it is past time for the senate to take up and
10:03 am
pass these funding bills so that we can go to conference with our house colleagues and send to the president annual funding bills that reflect our current priorities, that benefit the american people. in may of this year -- in may, mr. president, the senate appropriations committee reported the military construction and veterans affairs funding bill by a strong bipartisan vote of 21-9. as a member of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over this bill, i know that this represented bipartisan consensus and hard work. it reflects the leadership of chairman kirk and ranking member tester. this bill provides vital
10:04 am
resources for our veterans and our service members. we are operating under very challenging budget constraints, and i support the negotiations that are going on now. but it is long past time for the senate to take up, debate, amend, and pass each of these appropriations bills. we have the opportunity to do that just now, and i do not understand those who argue that we should not proceed with the normal appropriations process. those who disagree with provisions in this bill will have the opportunity to offer amendments to change the bill, but to not even allow this vital funding bill for our military,
10:05 am
for our veterans to come to the senate floor is an argument that i do not accept nor understand. mr. president, we owe it to our nation's veterans -- 127,000 of whom reside in the great state of maine. there are more than 21 million nationwide. we owe it to them to move forward with this important bill. these veterans answered the call to duty. they shouldered the hardships and sacrifices of military service. they have done their jobs. it is time that the senate does its job. we must fulfill our obligations and affirm a larger commitment
10:06 am
made long ago to take care of those who have so proudly served our nation, the patriots who have worn our nation's uniform. to highlight a few examples of why this bill is so important, let me mention that it ensures that our veterans have access to critical mental health care services. it aims to reduce veterans homelessness, a very important issue to me that i have worked on with senator jack reed as a member of the h.u.d. and transportation appropriations subcommittee -- another bill that we need to bring to the senate floor. this bill provides funding to pay veterans' benefits. it includes $270 million for the
10:07 am
office of rural health, important to the presiding officer as well as to my state. this office has established the program called the arch program -- access received closer to home. arch ensures that rural veterans in the pilot states who often have a difficult time accessing the regular v.a. health system can receive care closer to where they live. this has been a tremendous success in northern maine, which has one of the pilot programs in caribou, maine, in conjunction with kerry memorial hospital. this has made such a difns to our veterans -- such a difference to our veterans. i remember one of our veterans telling me about breaking his hip last winter in the height of
10:08 am
a terrible winter storm. instead of enduring a painful and bumpy ride for more than four hours to get to the v.a. hospital in augusta, he was able through the arch program to receive the care out of his local hospital, kerry memorial in caribou, maine. he also had the benefit of being able to receive care closer to where his family and friends were. the programs that i've just mentioned, like so many that are contained within the military construction v.a. appropriations bill, are essential to ensuring that the veterans who have placed their lives on the line for our continued safety receive the benefits they have earned. this bill is essential to
10:09 am
providing updated military housing and other construction, upon which those who are serving today depend. mr. president, it is simply irresponsible for us not to proceed with consideration of this and every other appropriations bill. they're ready. they've been reported by committee. let's do our job. we must do our best to honor those who serve and who have served and who sacrifice so much for our country. surely -- surely the senate should do its part -- we should do our part by promptly passing this important bill. thank you, mr. president. mr. isakson: mr. president? the presiding officer: the
10:10 am
senator from georgia. mr. isakson: mr. president, i want to commend the distinguished senator from maine. she has articulately splaingdz d why we need to move forward. for six years now the united states senate has abdicated its responsibility to appropriate. we have left the prioritization of spending to faceless bureaucrats in faceless buildings in washington. the needs of our soldiers and our country have gone unneeded while we in here have argued about things that were actually impossible. came into this chamber today and listened to the distinguished senator from nevada, the minority leader, make the following statement: "he can't understand why the leader would bring forward a piece of not-pass legislation and not go to something more important." i want the senator to go to the claremont hospital and tell those soldiers who have sacrificed and risked their lives for us that their needs
10:11 am
for health care are not more important or to tell jim webb, who passed the g.i. bill expansion a few years ago, that the educational benefits for dependents and wives and others are not that important. tell the people of the united states of america, those who have protected us, those who have risked are not more important. there is nothing more important than our veterans and our military. there's nothing more important than our constitutional responsibility as senators than to appropriate the money of the american people. we are abdicating our responsibility. it is professional and political malpractice and it is time it stopped. i get sick and tired of the political bantering back and forth when things come before us that must be done. as chairman of the v.a. committee, last thursday night in this senate we passed unanimously -- and it has now passed the house -- a total reform of v.a. construction and we fixed the denver hospital program that's been going on for six years in the v.a. the denver hospital has had
10:12 am
428.3% cost overrun. that is wrong. we finally are fixing it. with this bill, if the distinguished minority leader will let us take up this important bill rather than something that's not as important, we're going to fix v.a. construction forever because what this does it says the v.a. no longer is in charge of construction of hospital and clinics. the corps of engineers is. it is about time we had construction management by people who know what they're doing. we need the bricks-and-mortar people doing that. this bill brings about -- it funds managedtory veterans benefits through 2017. we had a threat of a government shutdown yesterday. we've had it in the past and we could have it he again. veterans health care should never be shut down. we need to continue to forward-fund our veterans benefits. let kneel you this, mr. president: you know in your great state in the dakotas, the senator from arkansas know,the senator collins knows from maine, the biggest complaint we get is
10:13 am
about the lack of timely responsibility in determining disability claims in the v.a., right? we have veterans waiting 478 days to get a disability claim on an injury they suffered fighting a war for us. 478 days is almost two years. that's terrib terrible terribly. it provides money to ex-sme diet disability claims. you tell me, senator from nevada, what's more important -- taking care of these guys who have taken care of us or just debating on the senate floor a bunch of hot air that means no difference to the american people? it is time we fished and cut bait. it is time we set the priorities and it is time we honored our commitment to those who have honored their commitment to us, the veterans of the united states. america. so as chairman of the most bipartisan committee in the united states, the veterans' affairs committee, which the ranking -- which the presiding officer is miami of that committee, we don't have democratic spats and republicans spats. we talk about our veterans. most everything we pass sought unanimous. we do so because we agree that
10:14 am
republican or democrat, whatever the case might be, we would not be where we are today nor would we be what we are today if it weren't for those who risked their lives and in some cases died for the people of the united states of america while sesqui in the military. so i don't know what the senatr from nevada thinks is more important, but for me these guys right here are the most important. i hope my colleagues ogee both sides of the aisle will make a commitment to those who served us and vote to proceed on the v. milcon appropriations bill and i yield back the balance of boozman: mr. pr? the presiding officer: the senator arkansas. mr. boozman: thank you, mr. president. yesterday congress passed yet another short-term continuing resolution. while this avoids a shutdown, it's far from ideal.
10:15 am
certainly a shutdown is not good governing. i think that all of us can agree on that much. i'd remind my colleagues, though, particularly those on the other side of the aisle, that continuing resolutions are hardly better. while the american people demand that we get our financial house in order, washington continues to pass stopgap after stopgap funding bills. instead of tackling this challenge head on, these short-term extensions continue current funding lesms -- levels and prevent us from stopping waste, fraud and abuse with taxpayer dollars. there is another option. we don't have to choose between a continuing resolution and a shutdown. the third choice is the right choice. and that choice is for this chamber to follow regular order and pass all 12 appropriations
10:16 am
bills. we've done our work at the appropriations committee, for the first time in six years every spending bill cleared committee. all 12 and most of them passed with strong bipartisan support. i commend appropriations chairman cochran and leader mcconnell for their leadership to make that happen. the full senate has the responsibility to consider each of these bills as well. leader mcconnell's committed to this approach. our caucus is behind it 100%. the minority, on the other hand, is actively working against it. committee passage of these 12 bills was no easy task. both sides make compromises. these bills were the product of a great deal of give-and-take. we worked very hard for months to ensure that these bills reflect the spending and policy priorities that are right for our nation. these bills should not simply be left for dead. the president is encouraging senate democrats to obstruct the
10:17 am
appropriations process because he wants more domestic spending for agencies like the e.p.a. and the i.r.s. this is not the direction that our country needs to go. i hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will reconsider this failed strategy. the funding bills show the american people that we share their priorities. for instance, the bill before us takes care of our active military and veterans when they return home. clearly this is an area of bipartisan agreement. yet, talk of a filibuster remains. here's what the minority is considering filibustering: increases in funding for veteran services, military housing and family support, hospital and health facilities construction, just to name a few vital things in this bill. the bill increases funding in areas where our veterans need it most: health care, benefit
10:18 am
claims processing, and medical research. it also includes funding for projects to ensure military readiness and improve the quality of life for military families. in light of the numerous scandals that have plagued the v.a., it includes some strong policy reforms such as protection for whistle-blowers. these are funding and policy priorities for both sides of the aisle. that's why this bill passed out of the appropriations committee with strong bipartisan support. that's why it should move forward without resistance on the senate floor. and yet, the minority is threatening a filibuster for reasons that have nothing to do with this bill. this is all about protecting the president's agenda. president obama wants spending increases across the board. he's issued a blanket veto threat for any appropriations bill that does not meet his demands. basically the president's view is that such agencies as the
10:19 am
e.p.a. and the i.r.s. don't -- if they don't get more money, then neither should our veterans or military families. it's my hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle recognize that this is out of line with our nation's priorities. the right thing to do is reject the president's call to obstruct so we can continue to work together for the good of the country. determining how we allocate taxpayer dollars is our responsibility, not the president's. continuing resolutions have been all too common while they should be a rare exception. we need to reestablish our priority of regular order and pass the individual funding bills that are needed to keep the government open. we can start that today by moving the military construction and veterans affairs appropriations bill forward. i yield the floor.
10:20 am
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mrs. capito: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak for up to ten minutes as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. capito: thank you. thank you, mr. president. we've heard from many of the members talking about the situation with the appropriations bill, and i'd like to add my voice to the chorus. for too long uncertainty has hampered our nation's ability to grow our economy and make necessary investments in our workforce, our infrastructure, and our technology. it's imperative that we avoid an unnecessary and reckless -- it was imperative that we avoided the reckless government shutdown this week, but that's just a short-term patch. now more than ever we need to take a longer-term action to move our economy and our nation forward. as the gentleman from arkansas mentioned, earlier this year the appropriations on which we sit accomplished something that's not been done since 2009.
10:21 am
we passed all 12 appropriations bills through the full committee. we did so on a fiscally responsible way. we did so within the budget caps agreed to by the congress. many of us here voted for those budget caps. and we did so with the broad-based bipartisan support, 1 of -- nine of the 12 bills had broad based bipartisan support and they reached every fasit of our economy. these funding bills were robustly debated. so knowing all of this, why are the democrats blocking the senate from considering one of these single appropriations bills? earlier this week it was the defense appropriations. today it's the military v.a., military construction-v.a. why? why are they blocking these same bills that many of them previously voted for in committee and touted to their
10:22 am
constituents? last week i had the privilege of traveling across west virginia with the v.a. secretary mcdonald. we were directly from veterans -- we heard from veterans about their challenges and needs. we were at the greenberg community outpatient clinic that had been closed. the secretary made a commitment with over 200 veterans we had in the room in that area there that that clinic would reopen quickly but without the certainty of the funding we have in these bills, secretary mcdonald cannot make those assertions across the country. we met to the huntington v.a. hospital where we met with employees and veterans, committed employees who want to see our veterans treated the way we want them to be treated. but advances in medical technology can't move forward without certainty of what the funding levels are. these men and women are brave veterans. they deserve our unified support and should not be subjected to the gridlock that's been so common in these past few years.
10:23 am
the military construction and veterans administration bill funds construction and care for facilities and services that assist our military veterans. it improves facilities for men and women who are willing to sacrifice for our freedoms. i will say many of our v.a. facilities are challenged with the 20% of -- or approximately 20% of women veterans that are coming out. they don't have facilities to adequately treat our women veterans. this bill also includes funding for construction of state extended care facilities which help construct, expand and remodel nursing home facilities to care for our elderly veterans. we know that many of our veterans are aging and in larger and larger numbers. determining our nation's spending priorities especially when it comes to our veterans is one of congress's most important responsibilities. our process can work and our government can function. we demonstrated that at the committee level. we need to demonstrate that as well today on the floor of the senate. but make no mistake about this,
10:24 am
this is not just about process. it is also about progress. funding bills are not just numbers on paper. they're people. they're people. they're our veterans. they are our friends and neighbors, our fathers, our mothers, our sons and daughters. they represent our priorities of our nation. there are other things in the appropriations bills that are equally important. we passed out historic investments at n.i.h. and community health centers. we passed out critical infrastructure improvements from expanding broadband access to trying to help with the drug epidemic. and you cannot measure the impact of programs like the national guards counterdrug program which is helping to combat the spread of illegal drugs in our state, or the work of the appalachian regional commission which helps to improve the lives of so many. endless continuing resolutions are not the most effective ways to meet these needs and can be proved wasteful in both time and
10:25 am
dollars. our bills provide critical funding, but they also provide direction on significant policy matters that are facing this nation. when we operate from one short-term funding patch to the other, we as members of congress are forfeiting our responsibility to hold the executive branch accountable. advancing appropriations bills through regular order is a vital check on wasteful spending and overreach in our government agencies. we need to work together. we can start that today, and i hope that we will later this afternoon. these are broad goals, and the direct impacts of the bills that we have drafted and passed are shown -- the goals are shown in those bills. as the senate begins consideration for funding for military construction and veteran affairs, we should remember this. governing is about setting priorities and bringing fiscal responsibility to the federal government while ensuring that we provide for the necessary
10:26 am
investments and services. supporting our veterans is not only necessary. it's about the men and women who put their lives on the line for us so we can enjoy the freedoms that we have here today. west virginia is a very patriotic state with one of the highest percentages of military veterans. i want to see that they're cared for properly. i'm going to make that vote today, and i hope that my colleagues, the ones who are on the appropriations committee that have already voted in favor of this bill, will convince their colleagues on the other side that gridlock and obstructionism is not the way to go in this senate. so with that, it's time to work across the aisle, pass this bill, and support our veterans. doing so will strengthen our nation. and i yield back. i suggest the absence of a quorum.
10:27 am
the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
10:28 am
10:29 am
10:30 am
quorum call:
10:31 am
10:32 am
10:33 am
10:34 am
10:35 am
10:36 am
10:37 am
mr. durbin: madam president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. durbin: i ask consent that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, there are many stories written in the last months about the dysfunction of congress. why can't they get along? why can't they produce something? why can't they address the issues and challenges of our time? and i.t it's easy to get into tt mind-set and believe that something has happened on capitol hill that cannot be repaired. for those who are about to give up hope, i hope they'll reflect on what i just left a few moments ago. there was a press conference held up in the radio and senate
10:38 am
tv gallery. attending at this press conference were senator chuck grassley, who is the chairman of the senate judiciary committee, senator john cornyn, the republican whip, senator mike lee of utah, senator tim scott, and on the democratic side senator patrick leahy, the ranking democrat on the senate judiciary committee, senator cory booker of new jersey, a relatively new member of the senate, senator sheldon whitehouse, senator chuck schumer. we were there to announce what we think is an historic achievement, an historic agreement. we have been working now for years, literally for years, on both sides of the aisle to make significant, meaningful sentencing -- criminal sentencing reform and reform to the corrections system of the united states of america. on that stage, from mike lee to
10:39 am
pat leahy and dick durbin, was the entire political spectrum of the united states senate and a lot of differences of opinion. there were times a year ago when i didn't think that announcement would ever take place, but today we came together on a bipartisan basis to announce that we had reached an agreement, an historic agreement, on the sentencing reform and sentencing act of 2015. we knew we had a problem in america, a problem of incarceration, a nation with 5% of the world's population has 25% of the world's prison population. what is going on in america? why are so many people in prison? and has it made us any safer? we asked those hard questions and came up with, we think, a good reply, a good response. we took a category of crime -- drug offenses -- that does not
10:40 am
involve violence or a gun or gang activity and said, we're going to give to the judge in that case -- that category of cases -- more flexibility when it comes to sentencing. the mandatory minimum requirements can be changed by the judge based on the defendant before him, the crime that they committed, and what that judge believes to be the best for our society. it's such a change. for the longest time, years and decades, our goal was to incarcerate as many as possible, and we did. some of them for extraordinarily unfair and unjust periods of time. the worst vote -- the worst vote i ever cast as a member of congress was in the house. it goes back more than 20 years ago.
10:41 am
basketball player at the university of maryland named len died from a drug overdose. we were called on to strengthen the penalties for cocaine in america and we did. the net result of that in several decades of sentencing was to send away primarily african-americans for incredibly long sentences. eugenealton jennings, a crack addict and teenager mother, was selling crack cocaine, a handful of it, to buy clothes and food for her children. it was her third offense. what she was convicted, the mandatory sentencing guidelines gave the judge no choice but to hand down a sentence of 23 years
10:42 am
in prison. the judge said at the time, this country, this government, has done nothing for you, miss jennings. through your tortured life and now at this moment in your life, we're going to kick you hard. the judge knew that it was the wrong sentence. fortunately, her sentence was commuted after a dozen years. she was released from prison to be with her children, only for a short time. she passed away from cancer. but that is just one statistic, one story, and it can be repeated thousands of times. this bill tries to avoid that type of injustice. we were not going to be a safer state, a safer nation if she served 23 years instead of 12. it made no sentence. and so we address it with this bill. with this bill, we go after a new approach in sentencing on this narrow category of crimes which we believe can result in
10:43 am
many serving shorter sentences. secondly, for those who are still in prison, subject to that 100-1 ratio on sentencing, we give inmates the chance to petition for reconsideration of their sentence on an individual basis so that they can be judged by judges, prosecutors, people in the community as to whether or not their sentence should be changed. so this, in a way, is a sweeping bill when it comes to the population of our prison. i believe -- and many agree -- it would be far better to take the $25,000, $30,000, 35,000 is costs a year to house an inmate and put it instead into community policing, making our neighborhoods safer, giving our prosecutors the resources they need to not only come down with the right sentences but variations in sentencing, like drug courts and veteran veterans
10:44 am
and things that are working around america that will make us safer at a lower cost, and we will have more money available to the department of justice and across the board to go after the seriously threatening criminals that we still have in america that we can never, ever ignore. senator cornyn, senator whitehouse took a look at those in prison to determine ways that they could earn an earlier release or better terms of release, and they did extraordinary work. senator cory booker of new jersey stepped in on an issue which all of us who serve with him know he feels so passionately about -- the african-american incarceration rate and the particular impact it has on young people in that part of our population. he made some valuable contributions to this bill. and so, madam president, it is our hope that we can bring this bill to the senate judiciary committee soon.
10:45 am
senator grassley gave his word that would happen. then bring it to the floor and send it to the house and for those who say, well, what's going to happen over there wawflt changethere withall of t, i would make one statement. our political spectrum represents the spectrum in the house as well. all of them can come together, too. they may not agree with every word in this bill, having servinged in the house, i'm sure they won't. but if they wi -- if they will make the same good-faith effort at finding reasonable compromise, then we can reach an historic achievement, an historic outcome in this process. i want to commend one member of my staff in particular who has devoted more hours than i could ever count to make this a reality. his name is joe zogbe, my lead counsel on the senate judiciary committee. time and time again joe zogbehas
10:46 am
performed so professionally and with such determination. from my point of view and i'm sure from other senators' point of view, we wouldn't be here today if we didn't have staffers like joe who have given so much of their time and their heartfelt dedication to finding a solution to an american problem. so before you walk away from the congress and say there is no hope, take a look at this bill and this effort. this is how the senate is supposed to work. this is how the house is supposed to work. it's how congress is supposed to work. and it's how america expects us to work. the president is anxious for us to come up with this work product. let's not disappoint him and the millions of americans who count on us to solve the problems facing america. madam president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll
10:47 am
quorum call: mr. schumer: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: madam president, i rise today to mark a sad occasion. yesterday parts of the 9/11 health and compensation act expired. specifically, the authorization of the 9/11 health program, one of the two critical programs in the zadroga act came to an end last night and will have to start winding down. thankfully, dr. howard and his
10:48 am
team who run the program have responsibly managed their funding so they can continue to support health services and benefits for several months on into the future. perhaps another year. to be clear, our brave heroes are still able to get health care from this program today. the fact, however -- that fact, however, should diminish in no way our responsibility in congress to reauthorize the program as quickly as possible and permanently, forever. in truth, it's a black mark on congress that the program was ever allowed to expire regardless of its ability to continue operation in the short term. the firefighters, policemen and women, construction workers and first responders from 9/11, many of them injured, many of them sick, travel to washington a few short weeks ago to lobby
10:49 am
congress, to petition their representatives and their government to continue supporting the basic health services they need to treat cancers, respiratory illness and other illnesses directly linked to 9/11. i want to thank my colleague in new york, senator gillibrand, for her valiant work on this issue. it has been a passion for her. she took the torch that hillary clinton first lit when she was here as senator and has run with it hard and well. and i'm proud to be her partner in making -- in trying to make sure that zadroga in both its parts is extended permanently. you'd think it would be easy to get this done considering all the legislators who say they'll never forget, who make promises each anniversary to honor the heroes of 9/11. we should not need them to walk the halls of congress to win support for basic services for those who walked undaunted through dust, fire, rubble and
10:50 am
ash, who risked their lives to save their fellow citizens. those who -- the first responders who ran to the towers, the smoldering towers on 9/11 are just like our veterans. they volunteer and risk their lives for our safety. these folks didn't have to do this. they volunteered. they knew the dangers. but they cared about our safety. we should not forget them. let their voices, the impassioned advocacy like folks like john steel and jon stewart have had an impact. on september 16 the majority leader graciously said he'll meet with them personally and said -- quote -- "we do plan to extend the program and the committees in the house and senate are actually working on the details now." it was a real breakthrough.
10:51 am
the first responders who pled their case, the advocates who supported them each step of the way, and champions in congress like senator gillibrand here and senator maloney in the house, who passionately led the fight for years now deserve much of the credit. they are the reason we have so many cosponsors. 56 here in the senate. 12 republicans. i want to thank you, madam president, for being one of those recent cosponsors. that's why i was so troubled to hear earlier this week when again asked if the senate would consider the extension of the zadroga act before the deadline, the majority leader said he'd have to check and get back on that. when the towers were hit, the firefighters, e.m.s. workers and cops who rushed into those burning buildings did not have to say -- did not stop and say, i have to check on that and get back to you. when the towers came down and
10:52 am
there was a hell hole of twisted steel and smoldering plaster board, with our brothers and sisters trapped within the smell of burning flesh still in the air, i was there, i vividly remember it, the thousands holding signs with anguished faces that said "did you see my mother mary?" "have you seen my brother bob?" people didn't know where people were. maybe they were still alive but trapped in these smoldering towers. and the first responders so bravely rushed to see if they could save any lives. so they did not say, i have to check on that and get back to you. no. they rushed right to the towers. they rushed even -- they rushed in even before they were asked. they did their duty. they did more than their duty.
10:53 am
many died. many more are suffering. we don't need to check on things and get back to them. we need to write the check to fund their health care for their injuries they sustained in selfless service for their nation when we were attacked under an enemy. period, end of story. so what changed so much over the course of two weeks? when the first responders were here in d.c., the majority leader committed to passing the legislation they need and so richly deserve for their heroism. a few weeks later, when the identifies of the world are -- when the eyes of the world aren't watching quite so closely, he said i'll have to check and get back on that. i would plead with the majority leader to help us move this legislation forward and move it forward quickly. let's not have to have these first responders, many of whom have all kinds of cancers that they acquired on those fatal days after 9/11, have to come back here again and again and
10:54 am
again. let the doctors who are bravely working for the program not have to worry whether they'll have a job. and let the program itself, which has been done without an iota of fraud -- all the claims, let's do it for five years because we're not sure it will work, those are the things we negotiated, senator gillibrand and i with gurn -- with senator coburn, those worries are gone. it's working exquisitely well and there has not been an iota of fraud or misspent money. we shouldn't have to check on it. we should just move forward. and i plead, plead, plead with our majority leader, who was moved, genuinely moved by the first responders when he met them, to make sure that the bill moves forward. and let me say the same for the leaders, whomever they may become in the other house in the new elections that occur. we cannot leave these heroes in
10:55 am
limbo. we cannot leave them wondering if their health program now expired will be there for them if and when they get sick. as jon stewart said so well, cancer doesn't expire. mr. president, i only ask one thing this morning. one thing. that the majority leader and the speaker honor their commitments to put this bill on the floor of both houses. i implore them to move quickly to pass the zadroga 9/11 health reauthorization act. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
10:56 am
10:57 am
10:58 am
10:59 am
11:00 am
quorum call:
11:01 am
11:02 am
11:03 am
11:04 am
11:05 am
11:06 am
11:07 am
11:08 am
11:09 am
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. ms. murkowski: madam president, request that proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to h.r. 2029, which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to calendar number 98, h.r. 2029, an act making appropriations for military construction, and so forth and for other purposes. ms. murkowski: thank you, madam president. i am here this afternoon -- or this morning yet to speak to the issue before the body, the motion to proceed to h.r. 2029,
11:10 am
what we refer to as the milcon v.a. appropriations bill. i certainly intend to support closing off debate on this and moving to take up this important appropriations measure. this is -- this is important for a host of different reasons, not the least of which is we need to get to the substance of this, but we need to get to a regular order of process in advancing the appropriations bills that we have spent considerable time and effort to resolving, to working forward over these many months. and making sure that we have that opportunity to do so in a manner that allows us to get to the substance of the bills rather than to put us in a situation where at the end of this year we scramble to -- to
11:11 am
piece together an omnibus measure that has not had the considered debate and opportunity for input that i think we all seek as lawmakers. it's important that we consider the military construction v.a. bill in regular order and do it now and not -- not amend it, not stick it on the back end of a measure, not incorporate it into an omnibus bill or some fashion of a c.r. omnibus right before christmas. i have been involved in the appropriations process as we have moved it through the -- through the various committees. i serve on the appropriations committee. i had input into the bill at the subcommittee level and again at markup, which is a lot more than can be said of many of my
11:12 am
colleagues in the body who don't have that opportunity not being on the appropriations committee. but even having the input that i have had, it's extraordinarily important that that input be allowed to continue. and let me -- let me -- let me illustrate why, because i think even for a member of the appropriations committee to have had that -- that opportunity for participation, it's so important to be able to speak to an appropriations bill after it has left the markup process. and i'm going to speak to one very specific issue today that has -- that has garnered the attention, the concern and the passion of alaskans and veterans around the state, and this is the issues surrounding the veterans choice card. in the view of many, many
11:13 am
alaskans, it is an unmitigated disaster in our state, and there are many reasons that this is the case. we don't host a stand-alone v.a. hospital in alaska, and so the v.a. has issued a choice card to every veteran in the state who is enrolled for health care, but in order to use the choice card, you have to identify a provider who is willing to accept the card, one who qualifies under the very onerous choice card standards, and also one who is willing to put up with the bureaucratic strings that are attached with determining which care is approved by the v.a., over what period of time and for what price. in alaska, we have a demand for health care providers that far, far outstrips the supply, and i have been on the floor many times speaking to that. we have many alaskans that have
11:14 am
private health insurance which pays the providers better and certainly more efficient than the government-sponsored programs. structurally, the way the veterans choice card program is currently designed, it does not provide alaska's veterans with the choices that it promises. it's just as simple as that. and those are just the structural problems that we're talking about. many of our colleagues know that triwest has encountered difficulties in implementing the program and the v.a. has had trouble coordinating triwest's work with the work of the local v.a. facilities, and unfortunately it's led to some dangerous near misses. we had one situation with a veteran, he was scheduled for a fee-basis neurosurgery, and he was -- he was going to receive this care from a community provider in the state, but then he's told by the v.a. that the
11:15 am
v.a. has changed its mind, they're not going to sign off on paying for the care, so the vet was told call triwest. the triwest call center operator gave the veteran a list of behavioral health providers who had signed up to accept the choice card. the call center -- the call center didn't know that neurore-surgery is not behavioral health, and by the time the v.a. had reversed itself, the neurosurgery appointment that the veteran had initially had was no longer available. the vet had to wait for one to become available. so what happens to him in the interim? they gave him pain meds. another case -- we had a veteran that was sent to seattle for a course of radiation therapy, and in the middle of this course of radiation therapy, the vet was told to return home because his
11:16 am
authorization had expired. now, he's told, authorization has expired, go home. it's not like he can just get in a car and drive 20 minutes back to his house. he'd been sent to seattle for the care, for the radiation therapy. go home. your authorization has expired. so, there's a whole series of exchanges with triwest and then to the v.a. itself and the vet began basically calling family members to tell him that he was coming -- to tell them that he was coming home to die and just start making funeral preparations. this is not how we treat our veterans. now, the veterans choice legislation provided that the choice card program does not displace any of the existing v.a. purchased care prime progr- programs. it explicitly supplemented those programs. in alaska, the v.a. -- and this was under secretary shinseki's
11:17 am
leadership -- they addressed two purchase programs. one program provided for partnerships with our tribal health system to care for our vets in our more remote areas of the state where the v.a. simply doesn't have a presence. and it was innovative at the time, and these partnerships worked. they really did help to facilitate the care. the other program enabled the v.a. to purchase care from community providers in the state who performed medical services that the v.a. didn't offer, services such as neurosurgery and specialized forms of radiation therapy. before this program was implemented, the v.a. forced veterans to fly -- again, to seattle or other parts of the country -- and, again, for services that we would consider pretty routine. you've got 1,000-mile-plus
11:18 am
flight to seattle for an orthopedic appointment or for a urology appointment. this is what we were putting our veterans through. so imagine, you're 70 years old, you're 80 years old, we're telling you, go take a flight three and a half hours down to seattle, get yourself from the airport to the hospital, just for an orthopedic appointment. and, you know, by the time the veteran is at this place and needs that appointment, you're not feeling really well in the first place. i have -- i've talked before, i've written before about a veteran on the kenai peninsula who died while fighting with the v.a. over urology care. he couldn't travel to anchorage, which is about a three-hour drive, much less seattle, where the v.a. wanted to send him, because he was in frail condition. but the v.a. refused to purchase
11:19 am
his care on the kenai peninsula where there were facilities there that could have helped him. i think we could all agree that when you have your veterans in their final months of life, they've got a lot better things to do than fight with the v.a. bureaucracy. so when the v.a. came before the hearings in the appropriations subcommittee, i asked them point-blank, i wanted to know whether implementation of the veterans choice card would ad vrsly affect the existing purchased care programs in alaska, whether through i.h.s. or for the specialized care and the answer was clear. there was no nuance, there was no doubt. the answer was, no, it's not going to impact negatively the purchased care program. and when the senate appropriations committee marked up the v.a. milcon bill on may 21, the v.a. still hadn't changed its eafnlts it's not --s
11:20 am
answer. i.t. not going to negative impact, they said. a week later, madam president, on may 28, i just happened to be visiting the v.a. facility in anchorage, and i learned there that the v.a. had spent all of its fy 2015 purchase plan money and was planning to suspend its relationship with the alaska tribal health system. i had gone to the v.a. center to just kind of get an update, to check in with the new docs that were there, see how things were working, and it was just basically a checkup with the folks at v.a. and they laid this bombshell, and they weren't trying to be coy with me or hide the ball. they had just learned themselves. i don't know who was in greater shock, me or the folks there at the v.a. and our military providers. so we were also in a situation where there were a lot of rumors that the v.a. was going to pull out of the joint venture
11:21 am
hospital that it shares with the air force on joint base elmendorf richardson. again, a bombshell of news. now we know that the v.a. was not just out of purchase care money, it was out of money to operate its health care system and without the emergency, no debate -- infusion of money that we provided from the choice act fund to the v.a. -- the v.a. would have run out of money before we had come back from the august recess. so it was a situation that was a mess, unraveling the mess, but it was something that needed to be addressed then, continues to need to be addressed now. so what is the v.a.'s failure to properly project the cost of purchase care mean for its fy
11:22 am
2016 appropriation, bringing it back to the issue that we're talking about now? after asking the v.a. this question on several occasions, i'm left with the impression that the v.a. will once again run out of money for purchased care and then will remedy the situation by shoving veterans into seeking care under the choice card whether the care is meaningfully available or not. so we've been pushing the v.a. on this, and to secretary mcdon-- and tosecretary mcdonal, he wasn't sheltered from the anger that our vets were feeling. my colleague senator sullivan conducted a field hearing to determine how the triwest and choice card program were failing alaskan veteran veterans. we still don't have an fy 2015
11:23 am
solution locked down by veterans day. so without an opportunity to debate the fy 2016 v.a. appropriations bill on the floor, i've got limited opportunity to press this point, to demand that the g.a.o. investigate what actually is going on for try to amend the bill to ensure that the v.a. has adequate purchased care money available so that it doesn't drop these veterans through the cracks when this can't serve their critical care issues, and neither can the choice card program. so without the opportunity to debate in regular order, i can't do what the people of alaska have asked me to do in representing them the way that i know that we need to do with this. i hear what the democratic leader is saying, that the budget control act needs to be addressed. but i don't disagree -- i don't
11:24 am
agree, excuse me. i don't agree with the trade-off that we cannot consider appropriations bills in regular order while conversations are ongoing to address the bigger, broader question. failing to consider these bills in regular order corrodes the influence of this body, it corrodes the ability of members to fulfill the responsibilities that we have to the people that we work for. so these -- these are issues, again -- i chose to fobbing focus my comments -- i comose to focus my comments on -- i chose to focus my comments on one area -- implementation of the choice card in alaska and how it has failed our veterans so, so basically. but there is so much more. but, again, if we don't have that opportunity to bring it up, to offer our amendments, to do our best, to serve the needs of
11:25 am
our veterans, we fail them, we fail a system. so i do hope that we will have the opportunity this afternoon to advance to these important measures and, remember, this is just the first of 12. very important work we have in front of us. madam president, i know that my colleague from connecticut has arrived to the floor, but before i yield the floor to him, i want to just briefly mention a meeting that i had this morning in my office. i was able to welcome members of the anchorage fire department honor guard to my office. they are making their way to member emmetsburg, maryland, tot of a ceremony where our -- at
11:26 am
the national fallen firefighters memorial where they pay tribute and honor to firefighters who have given their lives in the line of duty during the year 2013. three died -- excuse me -- and the firefighter that alaska is recognizing and honoring is a gentleman by the name of jeff bayless. and he died at the age of 51 on march 7 of 2014 during a strenuous training exercise in anchorage. and how jeff bayless lived his life as an alaskan -- a fourth-generation alaskan and as one who had not only a love for the outdoors but a love and a care for people is something that, again, we want to pay
11:27 am
tribute and we want to honor and recognize him. i have a statement that i would ask be incorporated fully into the record which details much of the life of jeff bayless, much of what he did as just, as he would say, one of the guys who's just doing his job. but as one of those men who was just doing his job, he needs to know that we view him as one of our heroes, and our thoughts and our prayers are with his family and all of his brothers and sisters as firefighters, as they gather this weekend in emmetsburg. with that, madam president, i yield the floor. mr. blumenthal: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, madam president. i thank my colleague from alaska for yielding and giving me this
11:28 am
opportunity to discuss two measures that ought to be beyond debate or discussion on this floor or anywhere else in america, two issues where americans ought to unite and be together, without controversy or contention. the first relates to the emergency responders who rushed to the rubble of the world trade center in new york in the wake of that who ar horrific attack n america on september 11. i want to join and thank my colleagues from new york, senator schumer who just spoke on the floor, and associate myself completely with his very eloquent and powerful explanation for why this nation must meet its obligation to provide critical health care for
11:29 am
those emergency responders -- firemen, police, medical personnel -- who went to that site, even as it continued to smolder with poisonous chemicals and fumes, risking their lives in the face of perils that they little understood and could not know. they never asked whether that place was dangerous but, in fact, as we now know, it has caused countless cancers, blood disease, lung problems, which have manage i fested themselves -- which have manifested themselves in the years afterward. and yet at midnight last night, the beginning of this day, the programs designed to provide critical medical care and
11:30 am
compensation to the victims were permitted to expire. that is unconscionable and unacceptable. and i join my colleagues from new york and new jersey, as a leading cosponsor i, notherring this congress to -- in urging this congress to act, and to act immediately and gently, to make sure -- and urgently to make sure we do what's right for those emergency responders who served and sacrificed in the wake of 9/11. failing to do so is absolutely outrageous. the fund still has some money, it will continue to function, but this congress should act to pass these adroga 9/11 bill immediately. the second area where i think we ought to be all agreeing relates to doing right for our veterans.
11:31 am
and that means restoring the $857 million that has been deleted from the president's request for veterans in the fiscal 2016 military construction and veterans' affairs appropriation bill. this bill essentially shortchanges our veterans and straitjackets the veterans administration. i want to put in the record a letter from the american legion with your permission, madam president. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: emphasizing the challenges that the v.a. faces in meeting the unprecedented and increasing demand for services that our veterans need and
11:32 am
deserve. this obligation for our country is not a matter of discretionary discretionary -- discretion or convenience. it is a promise that we have made and we must fulfill to provide medical care, skill training, job opportunity and most especially the mental health care that our veterans need so that we can stop the 22 suicides every day in this country, the greatest, strongest country in the history of the world where 22 of our nation's heroes every day commit suicide. they suffer from the invisible wounds of war, posttraumatic stress and brain injury. many of our veterans suffer the more visible wound, and they need care as well. many of our veterans in
11:33 am
increasing numbers will be coming out of the service, needing jobs and skill training, not only through the v.a. but the department of labor. just yesterday, the nominee for the labor position in the v.a. testified before the veterans' affairs committee as to the importance of services provided by the department of labor, and yet they, too, will be shortchanged by this budget. and so i urge my colleagues to provide sufficient funding to restore that $857 million and to make sure that we meet those needs of our veterans. failing to do so is as unacceptable as failing to meet the needs of the emergency responders who went to the 9/11 site. this bill underfunds the v.a.'s medical facility by
11:34 am
$100 million, reducing the v.a.'s ability to keep pace with the need for critical facility maintenance. this is upkeep that's vital for basic repair and maintenance. facilities will decay and downgrade without that funding. it's an investment in basic infrastructure. and we ought to be investing in the personnel of the v.a., the doctors and nurses and other professionals so that we recruit and retain the men and women who will really do the work on the ground, in the trenches to make sure that the v.a. provides the best care possible, world-class care to our veterans. they deserve no less, fully funding the v.a. honors the service and sacrifice of men and
11:35 am
women who have risked their lives to keep our great nation free. freedom is never free. and this nation ought to be keeping its promise to those veterans, which unfortunately, sadly, reprehensibly this measure fails to do. i thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: i ask unanimous consent to enter into a colloquy with the senator from wisconsin. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. flake: thank you, madam president. we're here to discuss a process for the border jobs for vets legislation that is going to pass shortly. i would yield to the gentleman from wisconsin. mr. johnson: i want to thank my colleague from arizona, first of all, for yielding, but also for
11:36 am
his leadership in working with on a bipartisan basis members from the other side of the aisle to really accomplish something, to produce a result. what i have been trying to do as chairman of the senate committee and homeland security and gaffers is reach out to every senator and ask them if you have identified a problem, if you have a piece of legislation that solves that problem, bring it in front of our committee, and i will do everything in my power to mark it up, report it out of our committee and then work with you to, first of all, pass it through the -- through the senate and then through the house to get that piece of legislation on the president's desk to have it signed into law and actually solve that problem. and the senator from arizona has done i think just a great job in this particular case because this is a piece of legislation that truly is a win-win. it's a win for our veterans. it's a win for border security. i'm not going to steal the
11:37 am
senator's thunder in terms of describing all the benefits of this bill, but i just want to mention a couple. we obviously have a huge primary border. i'm not going to -- neither one of us would i think claim that this is going to solve all our problems, but it identifies one. a staffing problem with our ports of entry, and also another problem in terms of our veterans that have served this nation and are unable to find work. so that's the win-win. this is a perfect example of a piece of legislation now that solves that problem. you know, coming from the manufacturing sector where i never did quite understand why returning veterans with the espirit de corps, with that attitude, i never understood why they had a hard time finding work. in oshkosh, wisconsin, at my manufacturing plant, if i found a veteran, i hired that
11:38 am
individual. i think what we're going to find now, i think with the what the customs border and protection is going to find is by this bill, making it easier for veterans to connect with those particular jobs, to help staff our ports of entry, we're going to find our customs and border protection is going to find that value of being able to employ the finest among us because we made that easier, and our veterans are going to have that ability to leave service and then have a really good job, further serving their country and keeping this nation safe. so again, i just want to really thank the senator from arizona for his leadership on this, working with me to get this passed through our committee, passed through the senate, and put on the president's desk for signature to have this thing signed into law so we could be helping our veterans and protect this nation. so thank you very much, the senator from arizona. mr. flake: thank you. i want to again thank the senator from wisconsin and others i will name later for working so hard on this, but the
11:39 am
senator made sure it moved through his committee expeditiously, that we got it to the floor here, and also through the house as well. it is an example of how the senate and the house can work in a bipartisan way. i appreciate both the appeal that you have made to encourage us to come forward with problems that we have and vote for ways your committee can help solve them. thank you again. mr. johnson: if i could make one final point, because this is a classic example. if we concentrate on the areas of agreement, find the areas of agreement that unite us as opposed to exploit the divisions. again, this is a perfect example, getting bipartisan support on a piece of legislation. it serves as a great example for everybody serving here in washington to see concentrate on the areas of agreement that unify us rather than exploit those divisions. again, thank you very much for your leadership. mr. flake: thank you. madam president, let me just talk about the problem that led to this bill. we've made significant
11:40 am
investments along the border in terms of our port facilities. more needs to be done, obviously, but we have made significant investments to accommodate cross-border traffic. there is a lot of good that goes on on the border. we often just focus on the bad, the illegal crossings and the drug trade and what not, but there is a tremendous amount of good that happens on the border, particularly the border of arizona and mexico. there is a lot of commerce that goes in. arizona's points of entry process, $30.5 billion worth of goods in 2014. this is an increase up from $18.5 billion in 2009. so there is a lot of good that goes on there. we have needed more adequate staffing at these ports. the border patrol that we often associate the border with, those are green uniforms. what we need more of are blue uniforms, people to actually
11:41 am
facilitate this cross-border traffic and the flow of goods that benefits us and benefits mexico and other countries to the south as well. secretary johnson, when we asked why we were having difficulty filling these slots for staffing of these ports, he said that -- well, let me just say we authorized the senate and the house authorized 200 new c.p.b. officers. we authorized these positions, but as of earlier this year, only 12 -- i'm sorry. only 800 of the 2000 had been filled. so secretary johnson was explaining that the delays are associated with applicant backlog investigations, low polygraph clearance rates and a shortage of federal polygraph exercise combined with attrition that goes on. and so we thought what group of people do we have who have gone
11:42 am
through these security clearances already and who could clear this hurdle and expedite this, and it's of course our returning men and women from the military and those who are there now out of service. they have in many cases already gone through the security clearances, passed the polygraph tests and could more expeditiously move into these jobs, and obviously we have concerns and we have several other programs that deal with returning veterans to make sure that there are jobs awaiting them. let me say this doesn't affect any of the preferences or other positions that are available for our veterans. this simply requires c.p.b. and the department of homeland security to coordinate and collaborate with our military, to see what jobs are out there and see what positions can be filled. it shouldn't take an act of congress to get two agencies to work together like this, but sometimes it does, and so that's what this legislation is doing
11:43 am
and it will require reporting to happen as well to make sure that this is being accomplished and the coordination is occurring. let me just talk about some of the endorsements for this legislation, some of those groups who have helped us in explaining the need and to coming to a solution. the arizona chamber of commerce and industry said that the border jobs for veterans act helps advance two major national priorities -- the facilitation of cross-border commerce and the future employment of the tens of thousands of young men and women who separate from military service every year, ensuring our ports of entry are properly staffed is critical to our nation's ability to compete on a global scale. the president of the fresh produce association of the americas said the border jobs for veterans legislation is critical for continuing to grow our nation's economy. it's helping businesses across the country pursue -- i'm sorry, continue to prosper by facilitating trade while also using the skills and knowledge
11:44 am
of an amazing asset we already have, our veterans, to do this important work. the greater nogales-santa cruz port authority said border communities like nogales, arizona, depend on the ability of goods and people to cross the border effectively and efficiently. we have been pushing for years for more staff. this act is the most significant step taken on this issue in many years. the president of the tucson hispanic chamber of commerce said we appreciate our arizona senator's approach to the problem that is impacting our communities and our economy. any impediments that increase wait times at our ports of entry such as lack of adequate staffing, impacts our retail sales and ultimately the financial success of our business community in arizona. i'd like to take a moment to thank my senate colleagues, senators ron johnson who already spoke here, senator mccain who played a critical role in this,
11:45 am
senator schumer, senator burr, senator baldwin, senator feinstein, senator lankford, senator sullivan, senator tillis, senator toomey and senator david vitter for cosponsoring this bipartisan legislation. after being approved by the committee, arizona congresswoman martha mcsally led the organization to get it passed in the house. she played a great role there. i want to thank her for leading this effort in the house. i want to also thank everyone's support and the hard work of the committee staff including brook erickson, holly idleson on the senate homeland security and governmental affairs committee and paul anstein of the house homeland security committee. nowp because of their efforts, we have this bill ready to head to the president's desk. in conclusion, let me just say those leaving the military need jobs. c.p.b. needs officers.
11:46 am
this is a great bill that will require coordination between the two and that will lead to greater staffing at less cost and certainly in less time. so i look forward to having the administration look at this and look forward to having the president sign this legislation. and with that, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to immediate consideration of h.r. 2835, which was received from the house. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 2835, an act to actively recruit members of the armed forces who are separating from military service to serve as custom and border protection officers. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection. the senate will proceed to the measure.
11:47 am
mr. flake: i ask unanimous consent that the bill be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table, and that any statements related to the bill appear in this -- at this point in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. flake: thank you, madam president. i yield back my time and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
11:48 am
11:49 am
11:50 am
11:51 am
11:52 am
ms. ayotte: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. ms. ayotte: madam president, i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. ayotte: thank you, madam president. madam president, i come to the floor today to ask for an extension of a very important program to my state, the land and water conservation fund. and because of that, i ask unanimous consent that the energy and natural resources committee be discharged and the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of s. 2101. i ask unanimous consent that the bill be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table. the presiding officer: is there objection? a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the
11:53 am
senator from utah. mr. lee: i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. ms. ayotte: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. ms. ayotte: thank you, madam president. i'm very disappointed that last night the land and water conservation fund expired and lapsed. and i just offered a unanimous consent motion to extend this fund for 60 days to make sure that there was not a lapse in this important program. this is a fund that in my home state of new hampshire, it has been used to ensure that the public can enjoy our beautiful environment and our natural spaces. from my home city of nashua, new hampshire, mines falls park, which i love to run through every morning when i'm in new
11:54 am
hampshire, and to our beautiful white mountain national forest. and i had the opportunity to come to the floor yesterday with senators from both sides of the aisle, including my colleague from montana, senator daines. he had a wonderful picture of he and his wife in their public lands that have been preserved using the land and water conservation fund. and he and his wife hiking. we all understand that a big part of the beauty of this country is our natural beauty. and because of that, the land and water conservation fund was established in 1965. and it was actually established to aid in the preservation of spaces for out door recreation across this nation. in new hampshire, we have a very strong are -- strong tradition f the outdoors being a part of who we are. the land and water conservation fund led to more than 650 acquisition and development projects in our state.
11:55 am
we very much support public use in our state of our lands, enjoying their natural beauty whether it's hiking, whether it's fishing or hunting. all those wonderful uses we can have of our public lands. and this fund has been very important. i believe we should not let it lapse. the law that created the land and water conservation fund in 1965, these are revenues that come from oil and gas leasing and a fee, portion of those revenues that are designated for this purpose. and so to not extend this fund really is another example, if you look at the fund itself, portions of these dollars have actually been taken to spend for other purposes in the treasury, not in accordance with the law. we see that happen too much in washington. but to let this lapse is very
11:56 am
unfortunate. i'm very disappointed that my colleague has rendered an objection, because this is such a bipartisan issue and something that has done so much for our country, this program. and for my home state of new hampshire. so i hope that in the coming days that we'll be able to work together to have the land and water conservation fund program extended, that we can get beyond the partisan objections and get it done so that we can work together to preserve the beautiful spaces in this country on a program that has done so much for my home state of new hampshire, and many states across this country. that's why it has such strong bipartisan support. so, madam president, i'm very disappointed that in asking for unanimous consent today that my request, which is a very reasonable request to extend this program for 60 days until we can get to the long-term
11:57 am
permanent authorization which i support and i've cosponsored, and i think that's what we need to do in the long term, but to let this lapse is completely unacceptable when it's been such a strong program in allowing everyone in this country to enjoy our public lands, to enjoy the great outdoors in the greatest country on earth. with that, madam president, i yield the floor. i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
11:58 am
11:59 am
12:00 pm
quorum call:


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on